Chicago is the third largest city in the United States, with a population of more than 2.8 million. Chicago also boasts the third largest Gross Metropolitan Product in the U.S. (after New York City and Los Angeles), generating $610.5 billion, accounting for 3.9% of U.S. GDP. The MasterCard Worldwide Center of Commerce index named Chicago the 4th most important business center in the world; more than 30 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Chicago, and the city is rated as having the most balanced economy in the U.S. On a global level, Chicago is considered one of the world’s major financial centers and is the 2nd largest Central Business District in the U.S.
Doing Business with the City of Chicago
Chicago’s procurement services and contracting processes are handled by the city’s Contract Administration. Vendors that are interested in doing business with the city of Chicago do not need to be pre-registered in order to bid on a contract; however the opposite is true when it comes to submitting proposals with specific City agencies. Chicago does not have a preferred vendors list, meaning that any vendor can submit a proposal on publicly available contract opportunities that are posted.
Becoming a Vendor for Chicago’s Sister Agencies
Chicago has a number of agencies throughout the city, each with its own procurement process and policies that must be followed when it comes to accepting bids on contracts. Below we will look at a few of these agencies and detail what vendors are required to do in order to bid with them.
Doing Business with Cook County
In order to be able to bid on contracts with Cook County, vendors must enroll with the county’s e-Procurement website. Enrolled vendors receive electronic notifications about new bid opportunities and any addenda, and are also able to download bid documents and view past bid documents. To register as a vendor for Cook County visit the Office of the Purchasing Agent.
To obtain contract documents, vendors can either download them or pick them up in person; however picking up the bid forms and specifications in person requires payment of a $0.25 fee per page. Vendors that want hard copies of documents must also supply the procurement office with their contact information (a business card will do) along with any deposit required for the cost of the documents. Any purchases of goods or services that are valued at more than or equal to $25,000 are posted on the Contract Opportunity Postings/Vendor Registration section of the OPA website.
Bids may be submitted by mail or in person to the Procurement Office on or before 10AM on the date specified. If the amount of the contract exceeds $150,000, the Cook County Board of Commissioners is required to handle the bid. For these contracts, the bid must be delivered to the “Bid Box” in the Cook County Building on or before the due date and must be signed and sealed with the contract number clearly marked on the outside of the envelope.[i]
How to do Business with Chicago’s Public Schools and City Colleges
Chicago has the third largest public school district in the nation, with 664 schools and 396,000 students. Chicago’s Public Schools (CPS) Department of Procurement does not allow for unsolicited vendor applications, meaning if a vendor has not won a contract award through a solicitation process they will not be considered. Business owners who wish to become vendors for CPS can either participate and be awarded a contract through the public solicitation process or obtain a CPS Principal, Network Chief, or Department Director Level Sponsorship. [ii]
The City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) operates 7 colleges and 7 vocational/technical centers that combined serve some 120,000 students.[iii] To become a vendor and bid on contracts with CCC, vendors must fill out the vendor application form and submit it along with W-9 forms, the Purchase Order Conditions agreement, the Ethics Orientation for Vendors/Contractors agreement and the NIGP codes form.
Bidding on Contracts for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)
Becoming a vendor for the Transit Authority is quick and simple. Interested vendors must create an account on the CTA Business Diversity Management System website and complete the vendor questionnaire. The Purchasing department at CTA maintains a database of vendors, contractors and consultants according to the services and goods they supply.[iv]
Doing Business with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)
Vendors interested in doing business with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) are required to register as a supplier/vendor through the CHA Supplier Portal. After completing registration the system will assign vendors with a supplier number that will be the company’s unique ID for CHA. Once a vendor receives their number, they will have access to view and download bid solicitations and documents.[v]
Chicago’s Small and Mid-Size Business Initiative Program
Small Business Initiative (SBI)
The Small Business Initiative program was created for small local business in the construction field to create jobs and opportunities in Chicago neighborhoods. The program is divided into two tiers, SBI I and SBI II. The first tier allows business who do not exceed SBA size standards to bid on projects that are worth $3 million or less (in total costs), while the second tier is for business who do not exceed one half of the size standards to bid on projects worth $2 million or less (in total costs). Since 2012, when the SBI program began, Chicago has awarded 35 contracts worth over $60 million to these small businesses.[vi]
Mid-Size Business Initiative (MBI)
The Mid-Size Business Initiative program is still in the development stage, but the program’s mission is for medium-sized local businesses in the construction field to become exclusive bidders on projects worth anywhere between $3 million and $10 million. To qualify, a business must be local and no larger than one and half times the SBA size standards. Chicago’s Department of Procurement Services developed the program to address concerns about the availability of opportunities for these mid-size businesses, due to the fact that these companies can’t qualify for the SBI program and generally don’t try to bid on projects that larger companies would go after.[vii]
Minority, Women-Owned Business Enterprises
Chicago has seen more than 3,000 new and renewed certifications issued for Minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, Business Enterprises owned or operated by People with Disabilities, Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, and Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. Between January and August of 2015, Chicago’s Department of Procurement Services awarded a total of $828.7 million in contracts to these types of businesses, compared to 2014’s awarded total of $531.1 million.[viii]
Of the total awards MWBEs received:
- 28% went to Minority-owned firms
- 10% to African American firms, for a total of $81.6 million
- 14% to Hispanic firms, for a total of $115.5 million
- 4% to Asian American firms, for a total of $37 million
- 4% to Women-owned firms, for a total of $36.4 million.
- 28% went to Minority-owned firms
If you operate a business based in Chicago, especially a small business or MWBE, take advantage of the opportunities available with the City as well as the resources the Procurement Department offers. Most local agencies prefer to give contracts to smaller businesses, not only because the price may be cheaper but because they can hire local companies, which helps to keep funds and resources supporting Chicago residents and the local economy.
Danielle Calamaras | BidNet.com
[i] N.p. City of Chicago. Procurement Services. Doing Business with Sister Agencies. Cook County of Illinois. 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016
[ii] N.p. City of Chicago. Procurement Services. Doing Business with Sister Agencies. Chicago Public Schools (CPS). 4 Nov. 2015. Web. 15 Aug. 2016
[iii] N.p. City of Chicago. Procurement Services. Doing Business with Sister Agencies. City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016
[iv] N.p. City of Chicago. Procurement Services. Doing Business with Sister Agencies. Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016
[v] N.p. City of Chicago. Procurement Services. Doing Business with Sister Agencies. Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016
[vi] Rhee, J.L. City of Chicago. Department of Procurement Services. 2016 Budget – Small Business Initiative. 9 Oct. 2015. Web. 15 Aug. 2016
[vii] Rhee, J.L. City of Chicago. Department of Procurement Services. 2016 Budget – Mid-Sized Business Initiative. 9 Oct. 2015. Web. 15 Aug. 2016
[viii] Rhee, J.L. City of Chicago. Department of Procurement Services. 2016 Budget – Participation. 9 Oct. 2015. Web. 15 Aug. 2016